Over the past year or so we’ve spoken to many dealers who have been interested in learning more about our experiences with network troubleshooting and various pieces of network equipment. In an effort to help all residential integrators, not only ihiji dealers, we have compiled a list of common troubleshooting tools as well as a brief list of network equipment we have found works well for remote monitoring and troubleshooting. Please feel free to comment and share your favorite tools and equipment.

Recommended Network Equipment:

We always recommend that you use managed switches and at a minimum small/medium grade network equipment. Note – we can NOT monitor non-managed switches – they have no IP address. The small amount of money saved on a non-managed switch will easily be recouped in the time savings and ability to troubleshoot and monitor remotely. There are many reliable brands out there but some that we have found to work well include:

Dell – Inexpensive managed switches with reasonable tech support, good reliability and feature set. (The PowerConnect 2808 is very well priced web managed 8-port switch that can replace the un-managed 8-port switches in secondary locations)

Cisco Small Business (formerly Linksys) RV082 – Inexpensive and very reliable router with advanced feature set. Cisco SMB has some fairly priced managed switches that work well.

Cisco – SR500 and CE500 series router and switches – great for higher end networks.

Cisco ASA, SonicWall or Firebox Soho Watchguard security appliance and firewall systems. Soho is easy to manage less costly than the Cisco security appliances but the Cisco is the industry leader. Sonic also makes their SonicWALL firewalls which are comparable to the Firebox. If you have a client who is concerned about security and wants a more robust firewall than is offered in a basic router these are all solid options.

Remote reboot Many IP based power distribution modules exist to allow dealers to remotely reboot equipment. Some of these include Panamax/Furman Bluebolt enabled UPS and Surge protectors, Tripp Lite IP Based PDUs, APC UPS and Back-UPS HS ($200 retail), and iBoot from Dataprobe. Panamax will auto-reboot a cable modem when a ping fails and there are some other products that will also provide this functionality. You can also get created with relays and a control systems processor.

Others – 3com, HP, Buffalo Tech, Netgear, and D-link all make reliable business grade equipment but avoid consumer grade. Rukus wireless systems are getting great reviews but we’ve not implemented them into our systems to date.

Note: Meraki is a great concept, however if you are not using their industrial WAP(wireless access point) you will have limited remote access which can cause many problems for monitoring, remote access, and troubleshooting. For this reason we would not recommend anything less than the industrial line.

Basic Tools:

All of these tools are basic windows network troubleshooting tools that can be run from the command line. To access the command line in windows goto start->run and type in command.

ipconfig – will display the ip address, subnet, and gateway of your computer and each of its interfaces. ipconfig /all will show DNS information. ipconfig /release or ipconfig /renew will reset your IP connection. ipconfig /? Will display help for the ipconfig command.

Ping – Basic troubleshooting tool to determine if a device is connected to the network. Internally you can ping the local gateway to test LAN connectivity. Once LAN connectivity is verified you can ping DNS servers to verify internet connectivity. Two common DNS servers for testing are Verizon or Google Type ping –help for more information on the ping command.

Tracert – Troubleshooting tool that allows you to determine where in the network latency or network outage exist. Trace route will show you the hops across a network to the final destination. Try tracert to see the route to google’s DNS server from your home, through your ISP network, and through the “Big I” Internet and across the country.

nslookup – Will look up the IP address for a domain name. Try nslookup www.google.com to look up google’s servers address.

netstat – To display network routing tables – netstat -rn. Display all active TCP connections with domain names – netstat -af

Advanced Tools:

KeePass– A highly secure and free username and password management program that stores all of you user names and passwords for easy access. This tool also generates secure passwords and encrypts your password safe with a master password and key file for extra security – www.keepass.info

ipscan – Scans a network for IP addresses, displays MAC addresses, hostnames, and open ports. This is an excellent tool if you are trying to document a network. www.angryip.org

speedtest.net – Test network bandwidth. www.speedtest.net

Wispy and inSSIDer – both of these are wireless analyzer tools– Great for troubleshooting wireless connectivity problems and displaying RF interference. A best practice in 802.11 B/G networks is to stagger channels across WAPs to minimize interference – using the 3 discrete channels: 1, 6, 11. www.metageek.net

LogMeIn – The industry standard for remote support – www.logmein.com

Cross Loop – Free remote support tool – www.crossloop.com

Teamviewer – Free remote support tool – www.teamviewer.com

Mozy – Remote backup tool – www.mozy.com

Carbonite – Remote backup tool – www.carbonite.com

UltraVNC – Remote desktop access tool that is operating system independent. Also supports some touch panels. www.ultravnc.org

Wireshark – Packet sniffing tool for network communication troubleshooting. www.wireshark.org

VPN – Virtual Private Networks are a secure way to access your clients network for remote programming changes, troubleshooting, or upgrades. There are many VPN tools available but many routers support Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) which is a VPN protocol that can be configured to use the standard VPN client on Windows or Macintosh.

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